Parents, teachers and the general public are constantly underestimating the intelligence of children. Children’s brains are like sponges absorbing information from everywhere and everything.
Here are the 3 main areas where I feel that parents are really letting their children down:
Children as young as 2 years old can be taught to do a simple task around the house 1-2 times a week. With each birthday that passes increase the responsibility a bit more. For example, a 2-3 year old could dust with a feather duster or be responsible for using a Swiffer cloth on the kitchen floor. (Yes, you are welcome to do it again after them, but wait until they are asleep so they don’t SEE you do it and feel as if what they did wasn’t good enough).
Elementary age children can empty the bathroom trash can when they are smaller and then graduate to emptying out all the trash cans. Save your back and let your child empty the dishwasher for you. Our 6 year old enjoys his task of unloading the dishwasher. He puts away what he can reach and stacks the out of reach items on the counter where I can put them away later.
Many parents wonder why they can’t get their children to keep their clothes picked up off the floor when they are 8, 10 or 16 years old. Well perhaps it’s because they didn’t require them to pick them up and put them away when they were 3 and 4 years old, but instead put them away themselves. If they can’t reach something to put it away they can set it in a specified spot and I will put those specific items away, but all else should be put where it goes. A child as young as 2 can certainly put away their own clean, folded clothes. It may not make it to the drawer folded neatly like you had it and it may not even make it in the correct drawer, but what is more important? Giving them the responsibility is more important than having neat drawers of clothes. Visitors don’t see the inside of the dresser drawers anyway.
#2 Not Exposing Children to People Who are Different
Children see everything and will ask questions about it right then (typically loudly), however “right then” may not be the most ideal time to discuss the issue. Example: “Mommy, why does that man have a metal leg?”
A child’s innocent and curious questions cannot be easily answered if parents are flustered or embarrassed. It’s much better to approach these issues ahead of time in a calm, matter-of-fact manner.
Check out books from the library that show pictures of both adults and children who are in a wheel chair, have leg braces, use a walker, use hearing aids or implants, amputees, artificial limbs, etc. Artificial limbs is a big deal for some children. Many children are kind of freaked out by artificial limbs if they haven’t been exposed to any information at all.
Mental illness and the mentally challenged are other things you should touch on briefly. Explain to your children that just as some people are born without an arm or leg, they can also be born where their brain doesn’t work like everyone else’s. Stress to your child that this doesn’t mean they are bad or scary people, it just means that sometimes they act funny or child-like. As children become familiar with these topics they are much less likely to be scared, point, stare or make innocent, yet hurtful comments.
Children learn through play, so let them play! Teach your child how to play checkers or chess and then play with them. Take them hiking and see how many different types of plants and trees they can name, help them learn the ones they don’t know. Read books to them (yes, even after they know how to read themselves). Much knowledge can be gained from reading books. Be sure to read a variety of types in both fiction and non-fiction.
Teach your children another language. Sign Language is a lot of fun for children plus it’s a QUIET form of communication which can come in handy at times. In our area you can check out dvds from the library specifically for children that can help them learn Spanish or Sign Language. A variety of language dvds and books are available to purchase online as well.
Whether your child is interested in a particular subject or not, you can increase their knowledge in just about anything with enough exposure to it. Even though some information may be way over their head and you know they won’t understand everything, each little bit of information they take in helps. With frequent exposures to similar things eventually they will take in a little more and a little more until they are quite knowledgeable. They may even surprise you one day by just how much they know.